Until about a year ago, most people had written off Alejandro Jodorowsky as a figure of the past — the wild-eyed cult filmmaker behind such midnight movie classics as “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain” had fallen into obscurity after a series of misfires and fallouts in the eighties. Even the characteristically wacky “Santa Sangre” barely drew much notice upon its initial release in 1989.
And the aftermath of Jodorowsky’s fame left a particularly bitter aftertaste because of the one project that should have been his magnum opus but never came to fruition: an incredibly ambitious adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel “Dune,” which had the potential to outdo even “Star Wars” in terms of epic scope.
But now, at 85, Jodorowsky is back and seemingly bigger than ever. In the wake of receiving much acclaim at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Jodorowsky came to the SXSW Film Festival for the U.S. premieres of two new films — one focused on his ambition, and another proving it hasn’t let up.
In “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” documentarian Frank Pavich chronicles the director’s battles with various studio executives and other collaborators in his failed attempt to bring “Dune” to the screen (and includes his giddy satisfaction over the poor reaction to David Lynch’s ill-received version).
The movie concludes with Jodorowsky gearing up to make his first movie in 20 years, which also screened at SXSW: “The Dance of Reality” is a surreal, bittersweet ode to the director’s childhood that tells the allegorical story (adapted from his autobiography) of the young Jodorowsky’s memories of his father’s political protests and his mother’s attempts to nurture him, with cameos from the filmmaker himself as the narrator of the story.
So there’s a lot of Jodorowsky at the movies this month (“Jodorowsky’s Dune” opens this Friday in limited release; “The Dance of Reality” opens May 23rd). But no single experience can fully encapsulate the sheer energy that Jodorowsky brings to every conversation about his work. Jodorowsky dropped by Indiewire’s SXSW studio (in partnership with Movies on Demand) at the Alamo Drafthouse offices in Austin to discuss — in his own unique way — why he’s curious to see the reactions to his new film.
In the following clips, the director also addresses the “spiritual problems” facing all human beings in his work and covers a number of memorable anecdotes, including George Harrison’s resistance to doing a nude scene in “The Holy Mountain.” Watch the interview below: